Omicron spreading fast, Delta still predominant

ICMR and the department of biotechnology were studying the efficacy and waning immunity of the existing vaccines against Omicron variant and the results would be shared.

Dr Vinod Paul, member (health) at Niti Aayog, emphasised on infrastructure and systemic preparedness at the national level and at all district levels.
Dr Vinod Paul, member (health) at Niti Aayog, emphasised on infrastructure and systemic preparedness at the national level and at all district levels.

The Union Health ministry said on Friday that 358 cases of the Omicron variant have been detected in the country, up from 213 cases detected on December 22. Omicron cases have spread to 17 states and union territories. Out of these 358 cases, 114 people have recovered and there were 244 active cases. The country had reported 2 Omicron cases on December 2 and reached 23 cases on December 10.

The health ministry had analysed 183 of the Omicron cases. Around 73% or 121 of those infected with the Omicron variant had a history of foreign travel, while 27% had no travel history.

Around 91% or 87 were fully vaccinated and three persons had received three doses of the Covid-19 vaccine including boosters. Two were partially vaccinated and seven were unvaccinated.

Union health secretary, Rajesh Bhushan, said the world was witnessing the fourth wave of the pandemic with 9,64,000 cases reported on Friday, with the positivity rate touching 6.1%. India has witnessed two waves and is currently reporting less that 10,000 daily cases in the last few weeks. But given the high transmission rate of the Omicron variant, which was doubling in 1.5 to 3 days, Bhushan quoting the World Health Organization said there were possibilities of multiple future surges. There were 20 districts of concern in the country with test positivity of more than 5% and two districts with 10% plus positivity, which was a cause for worry, Bhushan said.

States have been advised interventions such as restrictions and containment if test positivity reached 10% or if they reached 40% occupancy of ICU or oxygen beds. To deal with a surge, the ministry said there were ready with 18.10 lakh isolation beds, 4.94 lakh oxygen beds, 1.39 lakh ICUs, 24,057 paediatric ICU beds and 64,736 non-ICU paediatric beds available. Total medical oxygen capacity is currently at 18,835 MT per day.

Dr Vinod Paul, member (health) at Niti Aayog, emphasised on infrastructure and systemic preparedness at the national level and at all district levels. Paul also urged the private health sector to be prepared to manage the pandemic if the need arose. Deliberations were going on regarding booster doses and vaccination for children and decisions would be made on the basis of scientific data, Paul said.

While Omicron cases are rising, the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) director general, Dr Balram Bhargava said the dominant strain in the country continues to be the Delta strain of the virus. Omicron infection does not lead to any severe disease and one third of the detected cases were mildly symptomatic and rest were asymptomatic so there would be no difference in the treatment protocol of Omicron cases.

ICMR and the department of biotechnology were studying the efficacy and waning immunity of the existing vaccines against Omicron variant and the results would be shared.

Maharashtra had 88 Omicron cases, Delhi (67), Telangana (38), Tamil Nadu (34), Karnataka (31), Gujarat (30), Kerala (27), Rajasthan (22). Haryana and Odisha had four cases while there were three cases each in J&K and West Bengal. Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh had two cases. Chandigarh, Ladakh and Uttarakhand had reported one case each.

The country has vaccinated 89% of the adult population with one dose and 61% with the second dose, with total vaccine doses administered crossing the 140 crore mark.

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